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As Layoffs Continue, Work-from-Home Income Scams on the Rise

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Consumers lost more than $150 million in the first nine months of 2020 from income scams alone. (Adobe Stock)
Consumers lost more than $150 million in the first nine months of 2020 from income scams alone. (Adobe Stock)
December 24, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeing a spike in income scams, preying on people feeling financial pressure and looking for options to work from home during the pandemic.

Within the last year, it's estimated consumers have lost more than a billion dollars to income scams.

Emily Wu, an attorney at the FTC, said the agency has seen a 70% increase in complaints about these types of scams compared to the second quarter of 2019. She noted in crafting their pitches, the scammers tend to follow the headlines.

"They could range from work-from-home scams to investment schemes, to fake business opportunities, including pyramid schemes and something we call reshipping scams, and business coaching courses," Wu outlined.

She added some work-from-home scams have paid workers by check, but the check turns out to be fake, with the person cashing it on the hook.

Schemes that promise to teach "insider secrets" to start a business also are widespread. The FTC cautioned some college students have reported messages from someone impersonating their school's career services office. Others report being scammed after they've applied for a job or posted a resume online.

Wu also pointed out income scammers tend to target particular groups, including low-income and Black and Brown communities.

"So, there are certain scams that may reach out to people who only speak Spanish, or they may target groups like military families, or people with hearing loss," Wu explained. "So, I think that just means everyone needs to be on the alert for these types of scams."

Wu suggests doing an internet search, with the name of the company or business claiming to increase your income and words like 'complaint' or 'scam,' to find reviews.

She warned people to be skeptical of testimonials from anyone claiming to have made large sums of money within a short time period, as these often are fake. She added there are online resources that can help.

"For income scams in particular, you can go to ftc.gov/incomescams. And for coronavirus, you can go to ftc.gov/coronavirus," Wu stated.

The agency reported a surge in multiple types of fraud since the onset of the coronavirus, with more than 275,000 complaints since March, involving online shopping, travel and credit cards.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR